Home for the holidays?

Whatever happened to Cariboo-Prince George MP Dick Harris?

Bill Phillips

PG Free Press

Whatever happened to Cariboo-Prince George MP Dick Harris?

Oh, he’s still our MP. Maybe it’s just me, but since the May election we haven’t seen much of Harris. We’ve seen lots from his counterpart to the north, Prince George-Peace River Bob Zimmer, but not much of Harris.

During the election campaign it was suggested that Harris was actually living in the Okanagan, something he steadfastly denied then, and continued to deny a few weeks ago when the question of his residency rose again.

Harris admits that he spends as much time as he can in the Okanagan, where his wife owns property and that he continues to rent a house in Prince George. Kind of like having a cabin at the lake, he told a local journalist, adding last year he figures he spent about 19 days in the Okanagan.

We here at the Prince George Free Press thought it might be a good idea to try and find out exactly where Harris spends his time. Harris, in defending the fact he ran up $199,363 on travel in 2010-11, the fourth highest in the House, likes to point out he is chair of the Conservatives’ B.C. caucus. So, to see where he’s been, we launched a Freedom of Information request asking to see Harris’ parliamentary and personal calendar for last year.

The request, of course, was declined.

That didn’t surprise us. But what did was the response received from Theresa Bell, Harris’ legislative assistant.

“Such information is subject to the ATI (Access to Information) Act,” she wrote. “Nor will we be sharing information that is confidential or of a private nature concerning his constituents.”

We didn’t ask for that, only a record of Harris’ whereabouts.

The kicker was that Bell included a stack of Harris’ householders and flyers an inch thick that would have cost any other Canadian an arm and a leg to mail.

She somehow thought that “other information that is readily accessible” was pertinent to our request.

“What is important is that Mr. Harris’ constituents have expressed confidence in his abilities to represent them at the federal level and thus have returned him to that role for the seventh consecutive time,” she ended with.

In other words … bugger off.

This issue dogged the MP through the election campaign and it continues to dog him now, especially since he hasn’t been front-and-centre since the election campaign.

Harris will have to continue to defend himself until he spends more time in the riding

He could also take a page from independent Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson who has taken to publishing his expenses on his website. Anyone wanting to know what Bob’s been up to … how much he spent on a taxi, for instance, can check it out online.

It’s time that all politicians did that. We hear lots of talk about transparency in government, but that transparency seems to have an opacity to it.

ment, but that transparency seems to have an opacity to it.